Start small, aim high: Moorabbin’s inspiring transformation

by Lachlan Williams

When clubs are faced with challenges, it can sometimes be difficult to see the path ahead, but one club’s story shows the enormous benefits of resilience and positivity.

Moorabbin Bowls Club, in Melbourne’s south-east, has experienced an extraordinary transformation in the last eight years.

Going back to about 2013, the club was facing issues not dissimilar to other bowls clubs across the country.

“We were an ageing club, a typical suburban bowls club with difficulty attracting new members,” Moorabbin President John Smith said.

“The people we had administering club were doing a good job, but just got to an age where it was too hard.”

It was around that time when Smith and a few friends walked in to the club to pick up Tuesday night pennant bowls as a replacement for years of cricket.

“I got talked into night pennant and dragged some mates down and we thought it was awesome,” Smith said.

“There was already good spirit there, it’s a good club of good people.

“The foundation was good and the finances were in alright shape, so we decided to get involved.”

Smith and a few new members were able to inject new life into the club, with strong plans in place and a focus on growth and community.

The club’s committee created a strategic plan, setting goals of what they wanted to achieve, the timelines they wanted to achieve them in and how they would accomplish them.

“We just invited 20 people into our first strategic planning session, and quickly smashed all of those goals we set,” he said.

“Every time we set goals for teams we smash them.

“It’s about bringing a bit of business acumen to it, having something to aspire to and telling people what you’re about.”

Since 2013, the club has bolstered its barefoot bowls numbers, skyrocketing from about 200 each summer to 2500 in the summer just gone.

The club now books out for Christmas parties, hosts primary school trivia nights and runs a successful tournament every year.

Smith said the flow on effect has been remarkable.

“Our Tuesday night pennant went from one to three teams as well as players from barefoot bowls getting involved in Saturday pennant,” he said.

Things have improved off the green too, with a new green recently built and a new deck to go in soon among an array of other improvements to the club’s facilities.

The club has also recognised for its progress, named as Bowls Victoria’s Club of the Year in 2019-20.

Smith said having the right people in place is key.

“Many hands make light work, and we have a focus on members being involved in the running of the club,” he said.

“There’s also a focus on equality and diversity. About 40 per cent of our bowlers are women which is very important to us.”

Smith said while sometimes looking ahead can be daunting, it’s important for clubs to make a start and have an idea of where they would like to be.

“Start small, bring some people together and discuss what you want to achieve in a perfect world,” he said.

“Break the mentality of you can’t do this, can’t do that. Take all the negativity away.

“I could see where clubs might have tried and walked away. You have to hang in for it to grow. We never would have thought we would be in the position we are now, it just comes with starting small and building from there.

“Once you get good people involved, the momentum becomes a big thing. Don’t live in your own cocoon either, ask for help when needed.”

If your club would like to learn more about how to get involved with strategic planning, or more about Moorabbin’s success, contact your local Regional Bowls Manager – details here.